Court Rules Florida's Attempts to Purge Non-citizens from Voter Rolls Violated Law

Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 12:36 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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Florida’s efforts to purge from voting rolls Sunshine State residents who are not U.S. citizens have suffered dual setbacks over the past week, The New York Times reports.

On Tuesday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a 2-to-1 decision that the timing of Florida’s efforts to remove non-citizen voters violated federal law because it took place too close to the 2012 presidential election.

Federal law prohibits the systematic removal of voters less than 90 days before a federal primary or general election.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who spearheaded and still supports the efforts, tells the Times he’s not backing off his campaign to make sure only citizens are casting ballots.

“You know, my main concern is about the sacred right to vote,” he said. “The national database is doing some changes. The secretary of state’s office is working with them. So, they are working to make sure everything is right. I don’t want anybody’s sacred right to be diluted.”

Scott, who is seeking reelection, has taken political heat from Hispanics, a key voting bloc, according to the newspaper.

Though Secretary of State Ken Detzner suspended the program at the end of April 2012, records indicated that suspected non-citizens continued to be removed from voter rolls during May and June, which was less than 90 days before Florida’s primary.

“Eligible voters removed days or weeks before Election Day will likely not be able to correct the state’s errors in time to vote,” the 11th Circuit ruled.

Detzner issued a statement saying the decision was being reviewed, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Even before the 11th Circuit’s decision, Detzner, at the behest of Sunshine State supervisors of elections, put the brakes on the program – created using a driver’s license database – because it was riddled with errors. Only a few out of thousands of voters were determined to be wrongly registered to vote, according to The New York Times. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the appellate court’s ruling were naturalized citizens but listed otherwise on information sent by the state to county election supervisors.

Last week, The New York Times reports, Detzner circulated a memo to election supervisors in Florida’s 67 counties saying the program, dubbed “Project Integrity,” would be shelved until the Department of Homeland Security completes its overhaul of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, likely sometime next year. The SAVE database would crosscheck the citizenship of voters.

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